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It’s not that easy being red/The Red Line

March 31, 2011
By Brandon Veale -

For the last several weeks, we've celebrated some of the best that the Copper Country sporting world has to offer.

But now, it's time to get something off my chest - surely the ugliest moment of this winter sports season.

There's always lots of chatter on the bench between quarters or on the way to the locker room at the end of the period, and much of it is full of 'colorful metaphors.' However, earlier this season I heard the following offensive exchange:

"That (expletive) ginger hit me from behind!"

I wasn't offended by the expletive. Heck, I can hear that on TV any day of the week.

But the G-word, that was deeply offensive.

The title of this column, "The Red Line," is both a sports term and an expression of red-haired pride that the world needs to hear. In the United States, roughly 2-6 percent of the population has red hair. In the world, it's barely one or two percent.

An entire "South Park" episode was dedicated to how to harass a g****r. A Facebook group attempting to establish Nov. 20 as "Kick a G****r Day" acquired 5,000 members. The British supermarket chain Tesco pulled a Christmas card from its shelves that pictured a red-headed child and the phrase: "Santa loves all kids. Even g****r ones."

Young redheaded children around this country need heroes. Shaun White? Right on, dude! The Sedin twins? Double the fun! Of course, we also have Chuck Norris, which is all anyone should need for role models, really.

But then what? Dale Earnhardt, Jr. hasn't seen Victory Lane in ages. Mark McGwire and Jan Ullrich got busted for steroids. Former Tiger Chris Shelton's three-week pact with the devil at the beginning of the 2006 season fizzled quickly.

That's why I think it's time we lifted up redheaded heroes in the sports world around us, starting with our local area. That's why I've established Redheads United in Sporting Excellence as a means of recognizing their accomplishments.

Obviously, our coach of the year is Tech's Kim Cameron. The tough call wasn't whether or not she was the best, but whether or not she qualified as truly red or just strawberry blonde. After this year's NCAA women's basketball tournament, it's clear that there's not much blonde there at all.

In football, senior linebacker Mike Rittenour had 47 tackles (four for loss) and co-led Michigan Tech's defense with three interceptions last season, including on the first play from scrimmage in the Huskies' thrilling victory over No. 1 Grand Valley.

Sophomore setter Madeline Haben led the Husky volleyball team with 671 assists last season, 7.8 per set, while also finishing second on the team in digs (2.47 per set) and adding 50 kills. Joined by junior transfer Paige Kleinow, the volleyball team should have good redhead representation for years to come.

In the prep ranks, Heath Johnson quarterbacked the Houghton High School football team and scored 15 goals (two hat tricks) for the Gremlins on the ice.

Nikki Eskola was a major player in Calumet's late-season volleyball surge to the Class C district title game, posting nine kills in the semifinals against L'Anse and a team-high 11 in a hard-fought championship match loss to Houghton.

Her coach, Lisa Twardzik, has much experience in dealing with this kind of excellence, as daughters Katie and Erica were auburn assassins on the volleyball court themselves.

There are surely many more red-haired heroes on the local sports scene that I forgot to mention. Just remember, you can be one, too. It's just a bottle of hair dye away.

I'm establishing Friday as Redheads United in Sports Excellence Day. Through RUSE, we take time out to show appreciation for the accomplishments of red-haired athletes (and those who cover them) everywhere.

However, I'm told there's another holiday scheduled for Friday, too.

What is it, again?

Brandon Veale can be reached at



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